Nick's Picks

Expect the unexpected.

Especially when it comes to high school sports, that statement seems more true.

Through seven weeks of the football season, though, it had seemed that most games had played out as one might have expected. Or, at least according to the predictions made before the games being played.

After picking five high school games incorrectly in the first week, I pegged just two high school games wrong in the following five weeks — and then Friday’s 4-3 record hit.

I’m not pointing that out to show my ability (or lack thereof) to predict how a bunch of 15- to 18-year-olds are going to play a game. Looking up and down the scores, it was obvious that a strange phenomenon had happened.

In my years of following high school sports, especially in football, it seems that, one week out of the season, more unexpected results than usual seem to occur. In a nod to the current holiday season, I’m calling it the “twilight zone.”

Look at the close calls in 11-man action, for example. No. 2-ranked Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur, which had just one game decided by a touchdown all season, needed overtime against Fremont Bergan. Wait, that wasn’t a good example — Bergan was undefeated until last week’s 52-0 loss at Oakland-Craig.

Here’s a better example: Battle Creek led 21-0 and had all the momentum midway through the third quarter, only to see Hartington Cedar Catholic score three touchdowns. But the Trojans still finished three points away, 21-18. Wait, that might not be a good example, either — Cedar Catholic is a much better team than its 0-3 start would suggest.

Let’s look at eight-man: West Holt stunned defending champion Creighton by stopping a two-point conversion in the final minute. No. 2-ranked Howells-Dodge hung on by a touchdown against Laurel-Concord-Coleridge to keep its undefeated start alive. The one that caught my attention the most was Elkhorn Valley — which had just lost by four touchdowns to Lutheran High Northeast — knocking off previously ranked Neligh-Oakdale.

Those are more like it.

Especially in eight-man football, last Friday seemed more like the “twilight zone.” Here’s hoping the final week of the regular season doesn’t result in more “twilight zone” results.

Last week’s results

Records: 6-4 last week, 61-19 season, .763 winning percentage.

How city teams fared: Norfolk Catholic made a big statement with a bigger victory than expected over Stanton (27-19 predicted, 42-0 final), and Lutheran High Northeast took care of Madison by a big margin (56-20 predicted, 76-28 final). Norfolk High (23-21 predicted) tumbled at Lincoln Pius X (21-14 final)

Highlight: To me, it’s always a highlight when the Denver Broncos lose. It’s even more of a highlight when it comes against a rival, and when you’re half-right on the prediction (Kansas City 30-27 predicted, 30-6 final).

Lowlight: Northern State delivering what Wayne State coach Dan McLaughlin called a “gut punch” loss in double overtime (WSC 23-20 predicted, NSU 29-26 final).

Other results (predictions in parentheses): Battle Creek 21, Hartington Cedar Catholic 18 (17-13); Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur 42, Fremont Bergan 36 (34-24); Central Valley 44, Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing 33 (CWCE 30-20); West Holt 33, Creighton 32 (Creighton 30-21); Penn State 28, Michigan 21 (17-10).

This week’s predictions

HIGH SCHOOL

Norfolk (3-5) at Omaha Benson (0-8): A year ago, the Panthers dropped what was essentially a playoff play-in game against Lincoln Pius X, only to take out their frustration on the Bunnies. That scenario may play out again this year, as Benson has been blanked in four straight games and scored just 26 points all season. Norfolk 45, Omaha Benson 6.

Ponca (0-8) at Norfolk Catholic (2-6): There may be no playoffs for the Knights this season, but they have a chance to string together back-to-back wins heading into the offseason. It’s not a perfect scenario by any means, but it’s progress compared to the rest of this season. Norfolk Catholic 31, Ponca 14.

Neligh-Oakdale (5-2) at Class D No. 7 Lutheran High Northeast (5-2): The Eagles are flying high after three straight wins, including last week’s win over Madison. This three-game streak started with a 40-12 win at Elkhorn Valley, which just beat the Warriors last week. Both teams should be in the playoffs regardless. Lutheran High 46, Neligh-Oakdale 28.

Class C No. 2 Oakland-Craig (8-0) at No. 3 Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur (8-0): To me, it feels as though the Wolverines have been living on the edge for a few weeks now, while the Knights have destroyed pretty much anything in front of them. When the two teams have played nearly identical schedules, that says something to me. Oakland-Craig 36, BRLD 20.

Class D No. 6 Plainview (7-0) at No. 1 Humphrey St. Francis (7-0): Both of these teams have, for the most part, demolished anything in front of them. What happens when those two teams meet each other? We’re going to find out Friday night. St. Francis 42, Plainview 32.

Class D No. 3 Wakefield (6-1) at No. 4 Wisner-Pilger (7-0): Raise your hand if you had this one pegged before the season as a matchup of top-five teams. I can’t say that it was on my short list, but the Gators have been a pleasant surprise while the Trojans have done what they’ve done the past couple of seasons. Wakefield 28, Wisner-Pilger 20.

Hartington-Newcastle (5-2) at Class D No. 5 Bloomfield (7-0): It hasn’t mattered what team you put in front of the Bees this season — they’ll score plenty of points, even if the opposition does get on the scoreboard. Bloomfield 38, Hartington-Newcastle 14.

COLLEGE

Indiana (5-2) at Nebraska (4-3): I’ll be the first one to say that I didn’t expect Indiana to have a better record than Nebraska at this point of the season, but let’s be honest — the Huskers haven’t looked like the team I expected, either. ESPN’s “Matchup Predictor” says the game is almost a pick ’em, and I agree. Nebraska 28, Indiana 27.

Wayne State (2-5) at University of Mary (1-6): Both teams are coming off difficult losses — the Wildcats lost in double-overtime, whereas the Marauders fell 74-17 to Minnesota State Mankato, which is ranked third nationally in Division II. Wayne State 24, Mary 16.

NFL

Green Bay (6-1) at Kansas City (5-2): With a healthy Patrick Mahomes, I’d feel fairly comfortable picking the Chiefs in this game. But after what happened to his knee, there’s no way I’m going to pick Kansas City. That, and it seems like officiating controversies follow Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay 31, Kansas City 27.

In other news

Lloyd Gilpin, 36, of Norfolk was sentenced to three years in the Nebraska Department of Corrections for strangulation by Madison County District Court Judge James Kube on Monday.

HUMPHREY — When the defense failed early, the Humphrey St. Francis offense was there with 24 straight points for what looked like a commanding lead. And when the Flyers began sputtering offensively, the defense was there to pick up the slack.

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